The other day, I was listening to NPR, when a segment called “Ten Things That Scare Me” came on.  The guest this day was Tom Morello, guitarist for Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Just hearing the name of his bands transported me to high school.  I could picture us sitting in the lunchroom, friends wearing their stovepipe jeans, slicked down hair, and listening to Rage’s C.D. on their discman (dismen – is that the plural?).  A bit further into the segment, a clip of “Killing in the Name of” came on and I immediately thought “This would be a great song to run to!”

I could now picture my head bobbing back and forth, fists pumping and getting ready to take on miles of road or trail that I dreaded.  The music would take me away to a place where I am superhuman. Where I don’t feel the hill under my feet, where my quads aren’t burning and I can catch my breath and keep moving.

I listen to music anytime I am out for a run.  There are some runners who are purists and don’t ever use music during their runs.  I have heard they are better able to feel the connection to their breath, bodies and nature.  There are also professional level races that will not allow participants to use listening devices. I am in awe of those runners.  But, I do not aspire to be one of those runners. When I’m hiking or walking, I don’t usually pull out my phone. I like to pay attention to the beauty of nature at that time.  When I am running, I need more motivation. Music has been shown to encourage risk taking behaviors. Enter, Rage Against the Machine.

I have made a lot of friends in the running groups I have found.  But, my true running companions have been people like Flo Rida, Eminem, Kanye, Tyga, Black Eyed Peas, and other fine recording artists.  In Victorian times, society felt that good music resulted in good morals. “The right text could make the virtue explicit.” Well, I am not sure they had the explicit lyrics of today’s music in mind, but I digress.  Yes, I am relevant. I have fought through terrible weather, pain and mental games through these artists’ encouragement. I may or may not have been known to sing out some of the lyrics when I am in need of an extra push.  I may or may not have also felt myself moving in more of a dancing pattern than a running pattern. If you have seen this, I am glad I have given you something to laugh at. Laughter is good for your soul.

There is something to be said about following safe practices when using earbuds or headphones when running.  I often run on multi-use trails. If listening to music on a trail run, it is recommended to only use one earbud.  This way, you can hear bikes before they hit you. Trust me, it’s a good idea to stay friends with the bikers. Also both of you can be seriously injured by stopping too quickly or by colliding into one another.  

Not too long ago, a good friend of mine was killed while walking on the road.  It took me a long time to be comfortable running on the roadways after that. There are just too many distractions that take drivers’ attention away from what is actually on the road in front of them.  So, it is up to me to be aware of what is coming my way. I am hyper-attentive to my surroundings when running on the shoulder of the road (always against traffic). My music on these runs becomes more like background music, leaving enough of my hearing to know of oncoming traffic or other sounds that might be a hazard to my health.  For example, my neighbor kid who likes to skateboard by only looking at the ground in front of him. Or, the dog who does not like friendly people passing by his property.

My life was changed this Christmas.  I received my first bluetooth earbuds.  If you haven’t learned yet, I am slow to adapt to technology.  I use my phone to track my runs and listen to music. I like to hold my phone when running.  It gives me something to do with my hands. Otherwise, I might be found making jazz hands for 6 miles.  And that is just weird. Anyway, no cords between my head and my phone, now! I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten tangled up or pulled the jack out of my phone and had to stop, just as I was getting into my groove.  So frustrating! No more pulling my phone off the ledge of the treadmill and praying it isn’t broken. I can now tie my shoes without tying my cord into the laces. Life is good!

Music choice is a personal one.  Music enhances and can validate your current mood and feelings.  It can enhance your self image. It can give you motivation to keep on keeping on.  I find it overwhelming to create my own playlists. So, I just stream from the app on my phone.  I read that it is a good idea to find songs that meet the cadence of your pace. Otherwise, you may be pushing yourself too hard and become an inefficient runner.  Again, this is something for me to strive for. Maybe that could be a goal. Next year, perhaps. For today, I want to enjoy the experience and be transported out of reality for a bit.

Ambassador Maegan Garlock